There is something very wonderful about music. Words are wonderful enough; but music is even more wonderful. It speaks not to our thoughts as words do; it speaks through our hearts and spirits, to the very core and root of our souls. Music soothes us, stirs us up, it puts noble feelings in us, it can make us cringe; and it can melt us to tears; and yet we have no idea how. It is a language by itself, just as perfect in its ways as speech, as words, just as divine, just as blessed.
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Never trample on any soul though it may be lying in the veriest mire; for that last spark of self-respect is its only hope, its only chance; the last seed of a new and better life: the voice of God that whispers to it: "You are not what you ought to be, and you are not what you can be. You are still God's child, still an immortal soul. You may rise yet. and fight a good fight yet, and be a man once more, after the likeness of God who made you, and Christ who died for you!
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Do you feel that you have lost your way in life? Then God Himself will show you your way. Are you utterly helpless, worn out, body and soul? Then God's eternal love is ready and willing to help you up, and revive you. Are you wearied with doubts and terrors? Then God's eternal light is ready to show you your way; God's eternal peace ready to give you peace. Do you feel yourself full of sins and faults? Then take heart; for God's unchangeable will is, to take away those sins, and purge you from those faults.
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These glorious things-words-are man's right alone...Without words we should know no more of each other's hearts and thoughts than the dog knows of his fellow dog....for, if you will consider, you always think to yourself in words, though you do not speak them aloud; and without them all our thoughts would be mere blind longings, feelings which we could not understand ourselves.
My friends, let us try to follow the Saviour's steps; let us remember all day long what it is to be men; that it is to have every one whom we meet for our brother in the sight of God; that it is this, never to meet anyone, however bad he may be, for whom we cannot say: "Christ died for that man, and Christ cares for him still. He is precious in God's eyes, and he shall be precious in mine also".
Except a living man there is nothing more wonderful than a book! A message from the dead - from human souls we never saw, who lived, perhaps, thousands of miles away. And yet these, in those little sheets of paper, speak to us, arouse us, terrify us, comfort us, open their hearts to us as brothers.
And how high is Christ's cross? As high as the highest heaven, and the throne of God, and the bosom of the Father that bosom out of which forever proceed all created things. Ay, as high as the highest heaven! for if you will receive it when Christ hung upon the cross, heaven came down on earth, and earth ascended into heaven.
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A fine lady; by which term I wish to express the result of that perfect education in taste and manner, down to every gesture, which heaven forbid that I, professing to be a poet, should undervalue. It is beautiful, and therefore I welcome it in the name of the author of all beauty. I value it so highly that I would fain see it extend not merely from Belgravia to the tradesman's villa, but thence, as I believe it one day will, to the laborer's hovel and the needlewoman's garret.
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And no one has the right to say that no water-babies exist, till they have seen no water-babies existing; which is quite a different thing, mind, from not seeing water-babies; and a thing which nobody ever did, or perhaps will ever do. But surely ... they would have put it into spirits, or into the Illustrated News, or perhaps cut it into two halves, poor dear little thing, and sent one to Professor Owen, and one to Professor Huxley, to see what they would each say about it.
You must not say that this cannot be, or that that is contrary to nature. You do not know what Nature is, or what she can do; and nobody knows; not even Sir Roderick Murchison, or Professor Huxley, or Mr. Darwin, or Professor Faraday, or Mr. Grove, or any other of the great men whom good boys are taught to respect. They are very wise men; and you must listen respectfully to all they say: but even if they should say, which I am sure they never would, 'That cannot exist. That is contrary to nature,' you must wait a little, and see; for perhaps even they may be wrong.
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A blessed thing it is to have a friend; one human soul whom we can trust utterly; who knows the best and worst of us, and who loves us in spite of all our faults; who will speak the honest truth to us, while the world flatters us to our face, and laughs at us behind our back; who will give us counsel and reproof in a day of prosperity and self-conceit; but who, again, will comfort and encourage us in days of difficulty and sorrow, when the world leaves us alone to fight our own battle as we can.
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There is nothing more wonderful than a book. It may be a message to us from the dead, from human souls we never saw who lived perhaps thousands of miles away, and yet these little sheets of paper speak to us, arouse us, teach us, open our hearts and in turn open their hearts to us like brothers. Without books, God is silent, justice dormant, philosophy lame.
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Did not learned men, too, hold, till within the last twenty-five years, that a flying dragon was an impossible monster? And do we not now know that there are hundreds of them found fossil up and down the world? People call them Pterodactyles: but that is only because they are ashamed to call them flying dragons, after denying so long that flying dragons could exist.
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Now, to tell my story--if not as it ought to be told, at least as I can tell it,--I must go back sixteen years, to the days when Whitbury boasted of forty coaches per diem, instead of one railway, and set forth how in its southern suburb, there stood two pleasant house side by side, with their gardens sloping down to the Whit, and parted from each other only by the high brick fruit-wall, through which there used to be a door of communication; for the two occupiers were fast friends.
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It has been said that true religion will make a man a more thorough gentleman than all the courts in Europe. And it is true that you may see simple laboring men as thorough gentlemen as any duke, simply because they have learned to fear God; and, fearing him, to restrain themselves, which is the very root and essence of all good breeding.
Nothing like one honest look, one honest thought of Christ upon His cross. That tells us how much He has been through, how much He endured, how much He conquered, how much God loved us, who spared not His only begotten Son, but freely gave Him for us. Dare we doubt such a God? Dare we murmur against such a God?
Have charity; have patience; have mercy. Never bring a human being, however silly, ignorant, or weak--above all, any little child--to shame and confusion of face. Never by petulance, by suspicion, by ridicule, even by selfish and silly haste--never, above all, by indulging in the devilish pleasure of a sneer--crush what is finest and rouse up what is coarsest in the heart of any fellow-creature.
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Mathematical knowledge is not-as all Cambridge men are surely aware-the result of any special gift. It is merely the development of those conceptions of form and number which every human being possesses; and any person of average intellect can make himself a fair mathematician if he will only pay continuous attention; in plain English, think enough about the subject.
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Did it ever strike you that goodness is not merely a beautiful thing, but by far the most beautiful thing in the whole world? So that nothing is to be compared for value with goodness; that riches, honor, power, pleasure, learning, the whole world and all in it, are not worth having in comparison with being good; and the utterly best thing for a person is to be good, even though they were never to be rewarded for it.
After all, there is such a thing as looking like a gentleman. There are men whose class no dirt or rags can hide, any more than they could Ulysses. I have seen such men in plenty among workmen, too; but, on the whole, the gentleman--by whom I do not mean just now the rich--have the superiority in that point. But not, please God, forever. Give us the same air, water, exercise, education, good society, and you will see whether this "haggardness," this "coarseness" (etc., for the list is too long to specify), be an accident, or a property, of the man of the people.
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[At the end of the story, its main character, Tom] is now a great man of science, and can plan railroads, and steam-engines, and electric telegraphs, and rifled guns, and so forth; and knows everything about everything, except why a hen's egg don't turn into a crocodile, and two or three other little things that no one will know till the coming of the Cocqcigrues.
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All who have travelled through the delicious scenery of North Devon must needs know the little white town of Bideford, which slopes upwards from its broad tide-river paved with yellow sands, and many-arched old bridge, where salmon wait for Autumn floods, toward the pleasant upland on the west.
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Madame Nature allows no dangerous classes, in the modern sense. She has, doubtless for some wise reason, no mercy for the weak. She rewards each organism according to its works; and if anything grows too weak or stupid to take care of itself, she gives it its due deserts by letting it die and disappear.
So give me the political economist, the sanitary reformer, the engineer; and take your saints and virgins, relics and miracles. The spinning-jenny and the railroad, Cunard's liners and the electric telegraph, are to me, if not to you, signs that we are, on some points at least, in harmony with the universe; that there is a mighty spirit working among us, who cannot be your anarchic and destroying Devil, and therefore may be the Ordering and Creating God.
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I can conceive few human states more enviable than that of the man to whom, panting in the foul laboratory, or watching for his life under the tropic forest, Isis shall for a moment lift her sacred veil, and show him, once and for ever, the thing he dreamed not of; some law, or even mere hint of a law, explaining one fact; but explaining with it a thousand more, connecting them all with each other and with the mighty whole, till order and meaning shoots through some old Chaos of scattered observations.
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